Taking Care of Business: Tips for Family Child Care

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By Tom Copeland, Trainer, Author and Advocate for Family Child Care

Originally published in the Spring 2021 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine

Family child care providers start their businesses because they love children and want to care for them. But many providers quit because they can’t make enough money. Taking care of children is only half your job. The other half is taking care of your business.

The most important thing you do is to provide quality care for children. With a good business foundation, you’ll be able to continue doing this work for a longer period of time. It will enable you to support your family, perhaps retire earlier, or spend more time with children.

When you think about the business side of family child care, start by asking yourself this question: “What do you want from your work this year?”

Your answers might be:

  • More money
  • More paid or unpaid time off
  • Recruiting more children
  • Saving for retirement
  • Reducing your stress
  • Having fewer conflicts with parents

To get what you want, you first have to identify it. It’s not selfish to focus on what you want as a business. You care for your spouse, your own children, the children in your care, and maybe even your parents. It’s time to care for yourself.

Are you sacrificing too much for others? Maybe. If you are giving all your time and money to others and not saving for yourself, then it’s time to rethink your strategy. If you think there is no money to save for yourself, maybe it’s time to rethink how you run your business. If you haven’t raised your rates in three years, it may be time to do so now. If you don’t think you can make more money at what you are doing, maybe it’s time to think about taking on another job.

Set Your Goals

It’s never too late in the year to set goals. What aspects of your business do you want to improve this year? Create a list. It might include: Raise rates, reduce expenses, enforce late pickup fees, implement two marketing strategies, get business liability insurance, and so on. Pick one or two priorities, and measure how well you did at the end of the year. Reset new goals each year.

You Can Do It

There is nothing about the business side of family child care that you can’t manage. You may need some help — tax preparer, insurance agent, or advice from other providers. But you were smart enough to start your own business. You manage multiple tasks: chef, activity manager, conflict mediator, finance officer, and more. In the end, how you run your business is up to you. There are no strict rules. In my opinion, however, the stress associated with being a family child care provider is often caused by the lack of attention paid to the business side of what you do.

Tom Copeland has been the nation’s leading trainer, author, and advocate for the business of family child care since 1981. The author of nine books, Tom has presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. Tom earned a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and served as director of the Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. He lives in St. Paul, Minn., with his wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella. Tom answers thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals, and trainers understand complex business and tax issues.

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